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This empire is controlled by a constitutional monarchy in which its ruler has absolute authority over the country, only surpassed by the church. The country is divided up into a feudal-like clan system. Smaller clans pay homage and fealty to larger clans, whose land they live on. The 5 largest clans make up the royal families.

The five clans compete with each other to determine who the new ruler would be. The heads of the clans sponsor a champion to represent them. These champions face each other in a series of contests, which are decided on by the church to prove the worth of the combatants. The sponsor of the campion that wins becomes the next ruler on the throne. The new ruler must be recognized by the church through a coronation ceremony. They then elect a new head of the nation's military, often the champion who put them there.

Naturally, there will be some resentment from the other royal families who lost their chance to become ruler, and may seek to sabotage the current one. At the very least, they may try to usurp their authority. How can the current ruler ensure their loyalty and prevent themselves from being overthrown?

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closed as too broad by sphennings, Mołot, Bellerophon, MichaelK, L.Dutch Oct 19 '17 at 15:44

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Obligatory CGP Grey: Rules for Rulers. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 19 '17 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ As I said to you in the sandbox: This is still too broad. Asking "How to prevent people from harboring resentment?" is entirely dependent upon the individuals involved. If you described the individuals involved to a point to where it wouldn't be too broad it would be too story based. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Oct 19 '17 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings I suspect it could be an alright question if it looked at methods used to control powerful lords in the past. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Oct 19 '17 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ "constitutional monarchy in which its ruler has absolute authority over the country, only surpassed by the church". If i'm not wrong, a "constitutional monarchy" implies some form of constitutions. If so, your monarchy ins't absolute, it has to abide the law. $\endgroup$ – Liquid Oct 19 '17 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ This question is currently too broad and requires a lot of editing to make it more specific without being story based, I suggest you come to one of the chats where I am happy to help you work on this question. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Oct 19 '17 at 16:14
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My two cents:

Keep Hostages

As a common practice, all the clans may be required to send someone from each family to court. It can be done with younger/eldest sons/daughters, however you like it. This is a nice way of saying, "you rebel against me, your son's head is forfait". Of course, it may happen that a family still will want to rebel, at the risk of endangering their hostages. It doesn't matter: as long as you have the approval and the support of the other families, including your own, you should be able, as a ruler, to deal with possible treason.

Make Grants

To keep its rule, the new ruler should know quite well the inner workings of his clan ... but he/she should know the other quite as good. It doesn't matter if this is achieved through study or espionage. The point is: there are key figures in each clan that can be bought over by the right prize. You can play this in a number of ways. It makes sense - as you described - that a ruler will appoint his champion as head of the military (as who controls the army controls a fair share of power).

But what about other roles? There are other jobs both high on importance and status. The ruler could appoint a clan's head as the master of coin, for example. Other things might be of importance - such as land, rights on commerce, lower taxes, and so on. The point is: the ruler should be careful not to advantage his own clan too much in spite of the others. Of course politics are a tricky thing, since dealing out too many privileges will result, eventually, with a weaker crown - this has happened a lot through history, I'm thinking mainly about feudal europe after Charle Magne.

Don't piss on everyone's garden

Each major clan in your world is probably somewhat established in its own territory. This means each will have its own castles/cities, source of income, main strenghts and charateristics ... in the previous point, I've tried to explain why the ruler should try make some of the other clans happy.

Now I'm gonna explain why, at least, the ruler should avoid making them angry. Yes, it's as obvious as it sounds.

The point here is that your systems is very convenient for every family. There is no dinasty here, since everyone who wins the turnament can have a go at ruling. Also, the winner is decided with champions. Losing a champions equals to losing one person, that's pretty much better than a full-scale war. So, the head of a clan must have a pretty good reason to risk conflict. Humans are ambitious, true, but most humans are also reasonable. They won't try to change the state of things if the cons outweight the pros.

And how does the ruler ensures that? Simply enough, avoiding stepping into each clan territory. For example, a clan may take most of its revenue by selling pelts on the markets (maybe they live in the northern part of the kingdom, where wild fauna is more abundant). It would be a bad move to raise taxes on such goods, and could be detrimental on the long run. Another clan could be the owner of an important market/city/strategically placed castle. If not absolutely necessary, the king shouldn't try to take that away.

I'm not saying that a ruler shouldn't change how things run and shouldn't extend his power. I'm saying that, if he/she decides to do so, it must be done with utmost caution. There's nothing more dangerous than the creeping sensation that the king is being unjust towards one specific clan to foster rebellion.

Sure, someone in some clan may want to rule ... but what about his wife? His sons? His relatives? His subordinates? No head of clan can scheme alone. If more or less everyone has no particular reason to rebel, he will probably choose stability over change.

Use the church to your advantage

As opposed to "be used by the church". In your world religion holds power over the monarchy. It wouldn't be religion if it didn't teach some sort of belief ... and you can use that. By coming to pact with the head of the church, the ruler can reinforce the idea that he's the only legitimate king/queen, and that he has every right to rule. Devouts will believe this, thus going against rebellion. Of course, I'll assume most head of clans will have at least a skeptical view of religion, but this should keep at least the ranks in check.

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The French had the best approach to this.

The king mandated that the nobility were required to attend court.

Versailles was built with this in mind. By collecting the nobility it was relatively easy to maintain loyalty.

  • no one is going to commit obvious acts of treason if they or their air is sitting in the lions den and can be held hostage on a moments notice.

  • not attending court can be seen as a sign of dissent as well as loses representation with the king and other nobles thus your power (ability to affect change) is diminished.

  • by keeping all of the nobility together, if one house seeks to usurp the throne the other houses can easily be rallied to quash the opposition.

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